Building a best-in-class centralised resourcing function at NFU Mutual.

Find out how NFU Mutual adapted their approach & successfully transformed their recruitment practices.

Sector: Financial Services & Insurance

Total employees: 3,800

Resourcing team members: 31

Location: UK wide


Since Head of Resourcing, Heather Kitto joined NFU Mutual in late 2018, we’ve worked closely alongside her team to help build their new approach to resourcing. Having successfully centralised all hiring activity, the transformation in recruitment practices and outcomes across NFU Mutual has been inspirational.

Introducing NFU Mutual.

With origins in the farming industry (hence its National Farmers Union title), NFU Mutual is now a well known insurance and financial services provider turning over £1bn annually. The business is proud to be a Mutual as it is owned by policyholders. Its 3,800 employees span the UK with large offices in Stratford-Upon-Avon, Bristol, York, Chester, Belfast and Glasgow plus a wider network of over 300 locations.

The challenge of disparate offices and recruitment activities.

For many years, managers across NFU Mutual’s network of locations managed their recruitment activities independently. This was creating a host of issues and missed opportunities.

The business was struggling with a lack of unified processes leading to discrepancies in candidate experiences, mixed messaging and compliance risks. As the business continued to grow, the potential efficiencies to be gained by creating a centralised function became increasingly compelling.

The case for centralisation was becoming clear in terms of providing consistency, clarity and cost improvements.

Building a business case using industry insights from The Firm.

Believing in the potential benefits of centralising resourcing activities, the first task was to build a business case for executive sign-off. The NFU Mutual team worked closely with The Firm to create a detailed proposal. Thanks to our industry wide knowledge we were able to offer data and benchmarks to inform a persuasive and realistic case for change.

The knowledge gained from The Firm’s insights and reports content included learnings on creating best-in-class candidate experiences, building internal recruitment teams and on measuring effectiveness. These resources offered practical guides as well as industry case studies to reassure NFU Mutual of their strategic direction:

“The data, insights and benchmarking provided by The Firm instilled confidence that the centralised business case would meet the needs of the business.” Heather Kitto MCIPD, FIRP – Head of Resourcing, NFU Mutual 

The objectives and Target Operating Model was then signed off by the Executive Committee who were convinced of the benefits to be gained. The business case objectives included plans to:

  • Fill 100% of roles centrally including a significant reduction in agency hiring
  • Cut average time to hire by 50%
  • Guarantee compliance with IR35 legislation by managing contractors centrally
  • Implement a new ATS (Applicant Tracking System) across all new roles

Insights on all of these key issues are some of our most popular resources at The Firm. NFU Mutual’s membership also afforded them access to specific guidance such as a pathway on implementing a new ATS.

Putting the business case into action.

The re-think was based around the principles of proactive recruitment. The intention was to reduce the reliance on agencies, attract high quality talent, build talent pools and in turn reduce the cost and time to hire. All of this is managed by a restructured team combined with new processes and tools.

The team also assembled a range of external partners. The to-do list included tackling the employer brand and candidate attraction, building a new digital candidate experience, introducing psychometric testing and a new ATS. A complete overhaul!

To achieve such a full-scale redesign of the approach to recruitment, the resources, expertise and support of an external body such as The Firm was essential. Having pulled on our insights and guidance to build out the strategy, NFU Mutual sought out practical guides to implementing the new system. New policies and processes were key to setting a high bar for consistent recruitment journeys for both candidates and hiring managers.

The new world of direct sourcing and better all round metrics.

Against a backdrop of a lack of talent as job applications fell during the peak pandemic months, the team filled a record number of vacancies. Metrics all round have exceeded expectations as the new department has rolled out refreshed processes and tools. The results speak for themselves:

  • A 90% reduction in recruitment agency spend
  • 100% of new hires hired centrally, via the new ATS
  • Time to hire halved
  • 100% compliance with IR35 legislation

We also share our client team’s delight at the stakeholder feedback received from both hiring managers and candidates. What was previously a very disparate organisation in terms of recruitment has been won over by the efficiency and impressiveness of the new team. The business also believes it is now reaching a wider pool of talent:

“The business is now appointing the best candidates in the market, not just the best candidate who applied” Kenny Graves, Head of HR, NFU Mutual.

We’re delighted to see how our advice and insights helped to pave the way for such a significant transformation. NFU Mutual’s results are a great example of the benefits of taking on board industry best practice and focussing on the right metrics. Here is some of the feedback the team kindly shared with us:

“The resources available to us in working with the Firm played a significant part in the successful transformation to a centralised resourcing model. This led to cash savings, process efficiencies, and a candidate experience being rated 91% extremely satisfied in the first year.” Heather Kitto MCIPD, FIRP – Head of Resourcing, NFU Mutual


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